Review of “Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media” by Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy

I have just finished reading Jon Dovey and Helen W. Kennedy, Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media. Helen Kennedy is familar to many in HUMlab after visiting us in 2005 and presenting the seminar Gender Technicity and Computer Games.  

I really enjoyed Game Cultures, and it was especially interesting because the first half of it was read in parallel with Marie Laure Ryan’s Narrative as Virtual Reality from 2001. Dovey and Kennedy share Ryan’s focus on embodiment in game texts but they take it further as a subject in itself, rather than as a part of Ryan’s structural approach to Narrative. The triumph of Game Cultures is the critical term ‘technicity’ as adapted from Tomas (2000):

Technicity refers to that part of our identity formed and expressed through our relationships with,and competencies in, technology. To be subjects within the privileged twenty first century is to be increasingly caught up in a network of technically and mechanically mediated relationships with others who share the same tastes/attitudes, pleasures and preferences. Technicity is thus an important site of cultural hegemony in the 21st Century through which new formations of dominance and alterity are generated. (Dovey and Kennedy 2006:17)

Technicity permits analysis of dialogue between players and games and between the various discourses taken up within games; as text (and according to Dovey and Kennedy there is room for games as text and they take a hybrid approach to game analysis), as play and as cultural system/s. I see the hybrid approach of Game Cultures as a positive development in game research, it embraces rather than demarcates territory that is uncertain and dynamic and this is very appropriate considering the fluid nature of games.
Some faults I can see with Game Cultures? I don’t mean to whinge…but I will. The biggest thing that got to me was, why aren’t there any notes to the text? Second, the most detailed analysis of a text using the tools described in Game Cultures comes in the form of a sociology style study of a game development company. It is interesting to get this perspective, especially with a gender critique approach, but I would have liked to have seen more reception and interpretation or community response studies in the text. Maybe such work will develop out of the masses who should (and probably are already) reading Game Cultures: Computer Games as New Media.

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